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Women-only festival implements ‘no transgender’ policy… and then bans discussion of it

Nick Duffy December 14, 2015

A women’s festival in Australia will not allow trans women to take part – and has banned discussion of the issue.

The Seven Sisters Festival, set to take place in Mount Martha, Victoria in March, is a three-day feminist retreat that claims to “empower “women who are real, women who are powerful, women who want be the best versions of themselves”.

That is unless they’re transgender, however.

Prospective attendee Caitlin Therese Sullivan asked: “Is your festival trans inclusive? I’d very much like to know as this will mean either my attendance or non attendance. I know other people who also feel the same.”

The festival organisers replied: “As we have advertised the festival as a sacred women’s only space – having individuals onsite who are physically men would be breaking the trust of many women.

“We are however open to transgender women who have undertaken all operative measures to become a woman to come and partake in the festival.”

The comments sparked a debate among the group’s fans, with many who were planning to attend the festival saying they are “extremely disappointed” with the stance.

Rather than back down, the festival branded the criticism a “a provocative transgender campaign”, and banned discussion of the issue on its Facebook page.

A statement said: “Since it’s beginning, Seven Sisters Festival has had a policy of inclusion. We recognise that the identity of ‘woman’ is a unique lived experience to each individual.

“On Sunday 13th December a provocative transgender campaign was elicited on our Facebook page. We are currently investigating this.

“Whilst we value the opinions of ALL people and are sympathetic to this cause, we do not condone abusive and inflammatory words, nor do we tolerate the use of forceful language to push unsubstantiated views onto others. As such, we are deleting all content relating to this issue from our festival pages as it is not the appropriate forum and we wish to prevent further perpetuation of bullying and violent language.

“We apologise for any undue duress this situation has caused to everyone involved.

“As an organisation, we strive to engage in respectful dialogue, which involves everyone. To be clear, Seven Sisters have at no time expressed any official statement regarding our position on trans inclusivity, but we are now seeking legal advice on this matter, hearing the voices of our patrons as well as engaging into dialogue with the transgender community.

“Therefore, as a part of maintaining the integrity of our community, in the next month, we will send a confidential survey to our fellow sisters who have and will be attending next years festival so they can share their opinions without fear of bullying.

“We believe this issue needs to be heard and we need to listen to every woman who has made Seven Sisters their sanctuary and home over the past four years.

“Our policy and festival content will be reviewed based on the responses to this survey and publicly posted on our website. As always, we strive to co-create the best Seven Sisters possible.”

More: Australia, Australia, Festival, Trans, Transgender, Women, women's festival

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